Mary (Short Film)

24 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

In two reviews I’ve written of short films lately (“Last Shot Love” and “The Discontentment of Ed Telfair”), I couldn’t reveal their resolutions for the sake of people who should be pleasantly surprised by twist-ends. But in the case with Zach and Caleb Turner’s 25-minute film “Mary,” you won’t have to worry about me giving much away here. That’s because honestly, I’m not entirely sure what I just saw. I mean, I think I have some idea, but this is one of those fantasies that play with minds of the audience. And those who care can think about what they just saw and come up with certain interpretations about certain details.

I recommend “Mary” because I did care. Did I understand it? Not entirely. But it did leave me thinking about it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What’s the story? The main character is Craig Rifter (played by Matt Newcomb), a depressed, sleep-deprived schoolteacher who is coping with divorce. No one seems to help cope; least of all, a weird janitor (Graham Gordy) who babbles about reincarnation. While browsing in the local bookstore, he notices a beautiful woman staring at him, and wants to find out more about her. So he seeks advice from one of the clerks—a supposed psychic (Jason Thompson, a riot) who constantly puts him down (with strangely, a lot of penis jokes…OK) until he is convinced that he is the right one for her and states her name is Mary. Once Craig and Mary (played by an astonishingly beautiful Raeden Greer) ultimately meet, Craig is surprised to find that she is genuinely attracted to him.

And don’t ask me how, but things only get strange from there. Somehow, the subject of reincarnation comes back into the mix (so that the janitor’s ramblings actually had a point), and there’s also the strange aspect of a dreamlike matter, indicating maybe this is all a dream, or maybe it’s not. There are symbolic images (such as floating pieces of paper early on that probably indicate Craig’s life out of his control, though I could be wrong) and effective moments of magic realism, all of which surprisingly work in the film’s favor. It’s all quite fascinating and seems to know what it’s going for…although maybe a lot more than we do! “Mary” leads to somewhat of a resolution that could be a happy ending or a sad ending, depending on what you would figure what you’ve just seen, because this is not a film that relies on conventional storytelling; instead, it’s an artful film that asks the question of whether or not we deserve “the girl of our dreams.” For that matter, is this a dream? Does Mary really exist? Has Craig’s sleep deprivation gotten the better of him, causing all of this? Or, wait a minute…who or what even is Mary? Is she real? Is she a manifestation of Craig’s desire? Is she a ghost? Is she…something else?

I don’t know! I’m still trying to figure it out. Now I want to see “Mary” again. Maybe I can go back and see if it answers any of the questions I have. It’s kind of like “Donnie Darko” in that there are questions involving these fantasy-supernatural elements and because of the effective setup leading to it, its ambiguity worked in the film’s favor. That’s the case with “Mary”—I actually cared enough to ask these questions. I don’t hate this film, by any means. I’m intrigued by it. Spellbound. Fascinated. It worked for me. And I’ll admit I have a short fuse when it comes to symbolism (because while it can be effective and subtle, I’m usually not a fan of its occasional broadness in short art films), so this was a pleasant surprise!

What can I even rate this? 4? 3.5? 4? 3.5? 4? You see what this short film is doing to me?!

This is a deep, intriguing short film that is now in its festival run. If you haven’t already seen it at the Little Rock Film Festival, see it whenever and wherever you can. But prepare yourself.

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